Once upon a time, I lived in a placed called the Pumpkin House.
When we first saw it, it was gray. Not only in color, but in feeling. Flat yard, no garden, just a red door. It was empty and lifeless, cold, but I looked at the Boy and we looked at it and thought, “we can make this work.” We were looking for a home, had decided to start a new chapter together with our three cats and little pup Almond, and we found it.
So we filled it with color and life and love. We brought our animals in and got to see the joy in Almond as she ran laps around the huge backyard. She’d never run so fast before. The cats spread out and found their nooks and crannies, had three whole bedrooms to find places to settle and gaze at the world outside. I filled a room with my art and things I loved, the Boy put his playing cards and video games and work in another, and the last room was for both of us. We covered the walls in art and Halloween and things that made us happy. It was no longer his things or my things, but our things.
From little saplings, we grew plants and sighed when some didn’t make it. It took time to learn how not to kill the little plants. We threw parties and gardened and played music and cooked. We added another puppy, Leon, and got to watch him grow with the help of his sister from a tiny, yowling puppy to a big, wiggly mass of love. We pushed the couches together and had slumber parties in the living room, put up black Christmas trees and spoiled each other on holidays. We watched horror movies and played vinyl records and fostered kittens and every so often, the Boy would mention how there’s glow in the dark stars on the ceiling of our bedroom.
I always laughed.
Sometimes it rained and the backyard flooded. Sometimes the air conditioner broke and we camped in the backyard to escape. Sometimes we had to rescue mice and possums and so many stray cats. Sometimes the dogs escaped and we had to look for them in panic, either only for a few hours and that one time a whole week. But it always worked out.
We grew pumpkins in the front yard, got a bench with a crescent moon on it made just for us, watched the vines climb the walls as they grew and grew. We tended to the pumpkins every day, even in the rain, took pictures as they sprouted an inch and then two and grew and grew, watched as green slowly took over and yellow blossoms bloomed on the vines. Dug them out and spread them out, the vines a mass that couldn’t be contained. Baby pumpkins sprang to life on those vines. Each was a joy and we were eager to see more pop up.
The house wasn’t gray any more. There was green and orange and black and yellow and red and so many colors. The vines stretched tall, passed the stoop and then the door until they surrounded all around. We called it the Pumpkin House and I, the Boy, our dogs and cats lived happily there.
We didn’t grow that many, but one by one we harvested the pumpkins. It was exciting to see them grow and what they’ll look like in the end. We named them, sad to pick them but so proud of the work. They joined the decorations and we made pie, even if it wasn’t very good, dried the seeds and saved the remnants. Memories of our hard work.
Halloween, our favorite day, came. We sat on the porch in costume with our bat dog and played music for kids and passed out comics and candies. Our house filled to the brim with decor. After midnight, we would always go out, the moon high and sky black, and fill our carts with discount Halloween items. It was tradition.
And then it went. The cold set in. The vines grayed and withered and crumbled. The Day of the Dead passed. The marigolds died. Winter came. And then it was time for Spring. And then Summer. Time was passing and the season for pumpkins was over.
Two years in the Pumpkin House came and went and it was time to move on. Hopes of Seattle and green and trees were coming fast. A new chapter, new place to call home, a new Pumpkin House.
The art came down, the Halloween decorations put away, art supplies boxed up. Room by room, the house was put away into boxes or sold and emptied to reveal gray and white walls. There was excitement but sadness. We left memories in the floor, in the walls, could feel the warmth leaving and only the ghost of us remain. And when it was all done, the house empty and echoing with our footsteps, we laid on the floor of our bedroom, looked up, and the Boy said, “Did you ever notice there are stars on the ceiling?” I laughed and cried.
And then we left.
The Pumpkin House had lived, had been bursting with love and joy. It’s vines wrapped around us and kept us safe, protected us and kept us happy. But time moves forward and the air was starting to chill. Fall was upon us, but it wasn’t the same. And away from the safety of those vines surrounding us, a month later we crumbled too and there was no more pumpkins at all.
That was the story of the Pumpkin House.
I haven’t gone back to look at it, at the pumpkin wind chime we left up in the tree as a memory of us. I remember that house, catch myself driving back there if I’m not careful and paying attention. My heart hurts every time. That love and safety and how happy it was inside. I remember birthday parties and Christmases, rainy days and times laying in the sun with the dogs. And I see how cold and gray it is in the world outside of it. We had joked that the Pumpkin House had turned back into a pumpkin, maybe a pumpkin carriage, and would stay that way until the next stop. Maybe it did, but it never made it there. It couldn’t make the journey. We didn’t make it to Seattle. Now it’s rotted away into dust and seeds and I can only hope that one of those seeds turns into something good, for my sake.
I’m in a tiny room now. It’s familiar but it’s not mine as much as I try to make it be. I can feel it in the anxiousness in my bones, can see it in the way the animals move and sleep tightly together, can feel it in the way I don’t lay on the left side of the bed, but on the foot or in the middle in the pile. I don’t have a side of the bed anymore, just a big space.
I am still in this town, the plans I had laid out flowing like sand through the cracks in my fingers as I try to hang on. No events, no moving, just the walls and the pressing silence. We need a new home, I need a new town, but I can’t give it to them yet. I wish I could. But I am still covered in withered, crumbling vines and haven’t quite emerged new yet. I’m a cocoon, liquid and raw inside. Braving the hurt. Waiting to see what I’ll become in the end.
Plans need to be made, but I’m too scared of what the future may be to make them.
There is no hate in me, just sadness and hurt. But it’s starting to fade. Choices were made. Priorities were shifted. It just had the unfortunate side effect of hurting me. Selfishness and selflessness both have consequences and I am living them.
It wasn’t time yet. That’s all. Roots weren’t ready to be laid down and you can’t force them down when one side is at 90% while you’re at 100%. And I can’t be mad about that. I can’t make someone ready and fulfilled. It doesn’t stop the hurt and loss and the loneliness. The anxiety and overwhelming reality that is now. But I probably had it better than most and still do. I had a wonderful life with someone I love for 4 years, full of art and laughter and Halloween and animals and the greatest adventure. I had a Pumpkin House. And now I may not have love, but I still have my best friend and my animals.
And that’s the truth of it. There is no hate between us. Just some hurt and that will heal over time.
In the aftermath, there are new realities. First and foremost now, we are best friends. There are very few people who have seen the ugly sides of me, the harsh, broken bits and accepted them. Understands the things I love and am passionate about, has the same goals and dedication. Those things don’t change. Just our paths. We have a family together and that’s exactly what our animals are. They are both of ours, not his or mine. There’s a place in each other’s lives made for one another and even if it’s not what I want it to be, it’s still there.
People have told us it won’t work. You can’t still be friends. But we’re good at proving people wrong so we’re going to try our best.
The truth is this isn’t a fairy tale. I wish it was and I could tell you a proposal or engagement story where we moved to Seattle with our animals and are making art and thriving. There is no happily ever after. Happily ever afters don’t exist. It’s my life. It’s my reality and I’m living it in stark awareness. Sometimes love isn’t enough and you have to learn to be okay with that.
What we choose to share is only part of the whole picture and that whole picture only we can see. People can think what they want, but I know my own truth and choices and I know my own life. Nothing was perfect, nothing ever is, but it was still beautiful and full of love.
It’s always sad to lose love, goals, dreams. To feel like you’re standing in the middle of a storm with no clear way out. The instability isn’t good for someone like me. But all I can do is brave it. I am grateful to have had so many beautiful memories. I had a Pumpkin House that glowed in the night with love and color and laughter and life and no one can take that from me or tell me it wasn’t real.
I am not fully okay, but I will be in time. I hope. There have been ups and downs in the days since. One day, two, a week, a few weeks, and now a month. It gets easier to breathe though there are always hitches in the road. Moments where I wake up and forget. I’m hoping those pass sooner rather than later. I’m going on a pilgrimage to see Florence + the Machine by myself tomorrow. I’ve listened to her album on repeat, drowned myself, felt it all. I need this. The last time I saw her we were together and I cried from happiness. I need to do this alone now. Tears for us and tears for myself, but mostly release.
It takes adjusting to go from being 2 to only 1. Hardships are yours to bear alone. You have to survive on your own. You figure out a different support system. It’s been a very enlightening time to see who reaches out, checks on you, makes sure you’re okay when you’re drowning and who let’s you sink. You see what’s important to survive, to keep going. And you realize how time stops for nothing. Time seems to be the answer and curse to everything.
Winter comes. Then Spring. Then Summer. Then Fall.
And then there are new pumpkins. One inch at a time.
The Pumpkin House August 2017. This was home.
(I saved a few vines when we left. It’s the last pieces of the house I have)